It'll be some time before it's known if the A's struck similar paydirt this year, but there's little doubt that they landed a potential star in snagging switch-hitting second baseman Jemile Weeks out of the University of Miami with the No. 12 pick overall as the 2008 Draft got under way on Thursday.
"We're very excited," A's scouting director Eric Kubota said after selecting Weeks, whose older brother Rickie starts at second base for the Milwaukee Brewers. "Jemile is someone we identified very early in the process and scouted thoroughly. We're thrilled."
So, apparently, is Weeks -- who admitted that he didn't know much about the A's until he started hearing that they might make him their top pick. Having done a little research, he's excited about what he's learned.
"I know it's an organization that does a good job of developing their players," said Weeks, a 21-year-old junior. "It's definitely the type of team I want to play for, and it's a good opportunity for a young player."
The A's have now picked a college player with each of their past 14 first-round picks, and they stayed in the college ranks while rounding out the first day of the Draft.
After taking what one scout called the potential "steal of the Draft" in right-hander Tyson Ross (second round, No. 58 overall), a 6-foot-6, 220-pound junior out of nearby University of California who played his prep ball at Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd, Oakland tabbed catcher Preston "Petey" Paramore (third round, No. 90), a switch-hitting junior at of Arizona State; left-handed pitcher Anthony Capra (fourth round, No. 124), a junior starter at Wichita State University; shortstop Jason Christian (fifth round, No. 154), a left-handed-hitting junior at University of Michigan; and outfielder Tyreace House (sixth round, No. 184), a San Diego native who this year played for College of the Canyons.
The Draft continues Friday morning and will continue until all 30 teams say "pass."
With Justin Smoak, a first baseman out of South Carolina said to be the apple of Oakland's draft eye, having been taken by the Rangers at No. 11 overall, the A's couldn't pass on Weeks.
"We thought very highly of Justin," Kubota said. "We drafted him out of high school [in 2005], but we're very happy to have Jemile Weeks."
Rickie Weeks, who attended Southern University and was named the 2003 collegiate player of the year by several organizations, was the No. 2 pick overall that June and reached the Majors later that year.
A's top five selections
|12.||2B||Jemile Weeks||U of Miami|
|58.||RHP||Tyson Ross||UC Berkeley|
|90.||C||Preston Paramore||Arizona St U|
|124.||LHP||Anthony Capra||Wichita St U|
|154.||SS||Jason Christian||U of Michigan|
|Complete A's Draft results >|
It's unlikely that Jemile (pronounced juh-MILE), who was drafted by the Brewers in the eighth round in 2005 but turned down a reported $855,000 signing bonus to attend Miami, will be placed on that fast of a track to Oakland. But Kubota didn't dismiss the notion out of hand.
"I would say he was the best available middle-of-the-diamond player," Kubota said. "We certainly valued the athleticism and the bloodlines and the instincts that he brings to the position. ... We think he can come pretty quickly."
The only middle infielders selected before Weeks were shortstops Tim Beckham, a high schooler who went No. 1 overall to the Rays, and James Beckham (no relation), a junior out of the University of Georgia who went to the White Sox at No. 8.
Asked if he had a timetable in mind for his big league debut, Weeks said simply, "Whenever they feel I'm ready."
First, of course, the A's need to sign Weeks, and he said he'd prefer not to talk about a contract until his Hurricanes are finished with their run in the College World Series. Miami plays the University of Arizona in a Super Regional that opens Friday in Coral Gables, Fla.
After the season, Weeks said, "I'm willing and able."
A preseason First Team All-American, Weeks was batting .366 with 11 homers, 57 RBIs, 16 doubles, five triples, a .639 slugging percentage, 30 walks and a .447 on-base percentage through 57 games as of Thursday.
He'd also stolen 19 bases in 20 attempts, but he said he likely would have run more often were he not batting ahead of fellow first-rounder Yonder Alonso, a slugging first baseman who went No. 7 to the Reds.
"We are a running program," Weeks said of Miami, "but when you have the seventh pick behind you ..."
Weeks also said he was aware of Oakland's reputation of a team that doesn't steal many bases, but Kubota suggested that Weeks' speed was part of his appeal.
"We think he could be a very good basestealer in the big leagues," said Kubota, who added that the A's see Weeks as a "top-of-the-order guy" who could "play center field if necessary."
That last comment prompted a question about whether the selection of Weeks was in any way related to the future of A's second baseman Mark Ellis, who will be a free agent at the end of this season.
"I don't think you can relate it at all to our big league situation," Kubota said.
Listed by Miami at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Weeks said he'd like to sharpen his defensive skills but said he hadn't heard anything from Oakland about changing positions.
"There's a number of things I can improve on; I think it's an overall thing," Weeks said. "[But] I want to be at second base. I feel that I am a second baseman."
Weeks also said he's not as strong as his big league brother, who was with him on Draft day, and noted that they share the same hard-nosed approach to the game.
Kubota scouted Weeks personally three times and said, "You could tell he loves to play the game. He plays with energy, plays with fire, plays with enthusiasm. He's fun to watch. He's the guy that's always encouraging his teammates.
"His intangibles, we think, are very, very high on the chart."
Asked if he was faster than his brother, Weeks struck a modest tone.
"We haven't raced or anything like that, but I feel like I'm a good runner," he said. "We'll definitely have to try that some day."
Here's a glance at the rest of Oakland's first-day picks:
Ross, 21, was rated by Baseball America as the eighth-best college prospect in the country going into his junior season with the Bears but was slowed by a strained lat muscle that cost him three weeks. He finished the season 7-4 with a 4.25 ERA, but several scouting services project him as a top-of-the-rotation starter. He throws a fastball that's been clocked as high at 95 mph and finished his career at Cal ranked second on the all-time strikeouts list.
"This might be the steal of the whole draft," said an area scout for one of Oakland's AL rivals. "I've been seeing this kid since he was a junior in high school, and he could end up being a great Major League pitcher. He could be in the big leagues by next year. His stuff is great, and his makeup is off the charts.
"The A's should be ecstatic this kid fell to them."
Paramore, 21, is batting .361 with seven homers, 49 RBIs and a .500 on-base percentage for ASU, which hosts Fresno State in a Super Regional that starts Friday in Tempe, Ariz. Paramore is considered among the best defensive catchers in the country by scouting services. In his first two season with the Sun Devils, the Texas native made four errors and walked 17 times more than he struck out.
Capra, 21, is 9-0 with a 2.87 ERA in 13 starts for the WSU Shockers, who visit No. 2 Florida State for a Super Regional this weekend. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Capra has worked 75 1/3 innings this season and allowed 58 hits and 30 walks while striking out 87 and holding opponents to a .212 batting average.
Christian, 20, batted .330 with seven homers, 48 RBIs and a .445 on-base percentage in 50 games for the Wolverines this season and stole 16 bases in 18 attempts.
House, 20, was a heavily recruited football player as a prep and was drafted by the Braves in the 49th round in 2006. A two-time First Team Western State Conference selection, the left fielder House was named a Southern California All-American for the first time this year. The fastest member of the 2008 WSC champions, he topped the team in runs scored (55), and went 31-for-35 in stolen-base attempts while batting .348 this season with a .428 on-base percentage.
Also part of the Draft proceedings at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., was a ceremonial draft honoring living former Negro League stars. The A's selected Irvin Castille, who played shortstop for the Birmingham Black Barons from 1951-53 and currently lives in the Los Angeles area.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less